Phil Jones demonstrates that math is hard

University of East Anglia

UEA coat of arms - Image via Wikipedia

Sure, we’ve all made some doozies (me included) but you have to admit this exchange between top climate scientists Tom Wigley and Phil Jones is downright hilarious.

No wonder he has trouble with Excel.

Tom Nelson nails the decadal scale error:

Email 3235, Mar 2004, more stellar paleo work by Phil Jones. Given that he was born in 1952, he calculates that he must have been 28 in 1970

Email 3235

[Phil Jones] Tom, I presume you meant Jan 18, 2005 ! In 1965 you would have been 25 – your heydey. Mine was when I was 28 in 1970 ! Some people do work beyond 65, but the examples I’ve heard of have only been doing teaching

[Wigley] Phil, Good news. You are correct, my 65th bithday is Jan. 18, 1965. I thought retired persons were allowed to be employed up to one-third time for the next 5 years?

Phil Jones (climatologist) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Philip D. Jones (born 1952) is a climatologist at the University of East Anglia,

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76 Responses to Phil Jones demonstrates that math is hard

  1. TheFlyingOrc says:

    Oh come on, are we really calling him out for typos now?

  2. jorgekafkazar says:

    A PhD is someone who has gone through university learning more and more about less and less until he eventually knows everything about nothing.

  3. DanSanto says:

    [snip. Invalid email address. ~dbs, mod.]

  4. Archonix says:

    TheFlyingOrc says:

    Yes, yes we are.

    (He’s not alone though; I’ve experienced complete brainfarts where I’ll type one thing and then type it again when I mean something different. Sometimes I type my password in where my username should be.)

  5. Stonyground says:

    How odd. What seems strange to me is not so much that he has failed at really basic arithmetic but that his memory of his earlier life is so messed up. The stuff that I was doing when I was eighteen was entirely different from the stuff that I was doing when I was twenty-eight, how would it be possible to get the two mixed up? Interestingly, while thinking about this, the one thing that really jumped out was pop music.

  6. Kasuha says:

    Is this blog still about science?

  7. greg holmes says:

    Come on Anthony, delete this iem , not worthy. The guy is hanging himself without this stuff as well. Just nail him on the science, the lies and the FOIA.

  8. Ian E says:

    A somewhat amusing, somewhat dyslexic-type of error, but I would note that ‘errare humanum est’ etc!

  9. John T says:

    Uh… Phil? You don’t need to use that fake ID any more unless its for the senior citizens discount. And you probably don’t even need it for that any more.

  10. John Trigge says:

    [Wigley] Phil, Good news. You are correct, my 65th bithday is Jan. 18, 1965.

    It appears both have a mathematical (science) issue.

    How many other ‘typos’ are there in their work? One can excuse the occasional slip but these incidents are too common (or deliberate) to excuse them all.

  11. DonK31 says:

    “Oh come on, are we really calling him out for typos now?”

    Those who claim to have all the answers better have them. Those who call others stupid better damn well be perfect.

  12. John T says:

    Alternate headline: Phil Jones uses climate model to calculate his age.

  13. Al Gored says:

    It is worse than the headline. This is just arithmetic, not math.

    But maybe Jones can now use this as an excuse for all his junk science. He can suddenly discover that he has [insert politically correct term for someone who messes up numbers due to the stress of evil capitalism, bullying by right wingers as a child, or relentlessly increasing temperatures] and play the victim.

    So we really shouldn’t criticize him, because it is all society’s fault.

  14. Richard deSousa says:

    So, here is Jones denying access to his work because he’s afraid of somebody finding errors? Then he flubs math 101… hehe

  15. Tom in Florida says:

    Perhaps he was 28 when he graduated from high school. Would explain a lot.

  16. Alan Statham says:

    Climate scientist typed a 2 instead of a 1. And therefore global warming isn’t happening. Fabulous.

    Now how about you release an equivalent volume of your own e-mails for us all to root through? If you don’t want to, can you explain why not?

    [REPLY: Because Anthony's work is not publically funded and is not being used as the basis for a multi-trillion dollar re-ordering of the world economy. As for your logic.... this was filed under "humor". -rep]

  17. dfbaskwill says:

    Leave the post up! If you can’t kick a man while he’s down, you don’t deserve to kick him. And seeing him kicked is too darned fun. We’ve all been kicked in the ‘nards and learned a lesson.at some point. This one is harmless fun, but fun none-the-less.

  18. Andrew Russell says:

    “There are three kinds of people in the world: Those who can do math: and those who can’t”

    Between Mann and Jones, we have evidence that climate scientists would go “of course!” to the above statement.

  19. starzmom says:

    Is Wigley still around? By his math, he is 112 years old. That is working a tad past the 5 years after age 65.

  20. Dave Wendt says:

    Isn’t “How old are you?” one of the standard questions asked when doing an evaluation for the onset of senile dementia? You have to give Wigley some credit though, he seems to be holding up quite well for a guy who was 104 years old.

  21. Mike Jonas says:

    Who cares? My back-of-envelope calcs sometimes gain or lose a zero on the end, and I’m a mathematician. But then, if they’re important at least I check them. This isn’t remotely important. Please, stick to the real issues.

  22. Ray Boorman says:

    I say these sorts of mistakes are important, but then I am a pedantic b@@tard. Scientists are supposed to be interested in accuracy. To me, the lack of accuracy in their written communications is a sign that their official work could suffer from a similar lack of attention to detail. These emails show they do not proofread for even the obvious mistakes before hitting the send button. You only need look at the IPCC reports, lauded by politicians worldwide for their accuracy, to see similar failures in fact checking.

  23. Mydogsgotnonose says:

    Climatezheimers…..

  24. Gotta say, a bit trite. But then again, I’ll now have to watch my pees and queues. I think I have a valid email address.

  25. Jack Savage says:

    Amusing, but not really worthy of comment on this site. Part of the pleasure of reading this site is the general refusal to go for the cheap shot.
    All those who would like the post removed say: “Aye!”

  26. Dave N says:

    Like some responses here, the alarmists will probably cry “they’re even calling us out for typos.. desperate, much?”, however DonK31 sums it up well:

    “Those who claim to have all the answers better have them”.

    Make no mistake (pun intended): these guys are strongly influencing the livelihoods of everyone on the planet.

  27. Jim Carson says:

    Leave the post up. This is the highest level of mathematics most journalism majors can check for themselves.

  28. H.R. says:

    Richard deSousa says:
    January 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm
    “So, here is Jones denying access to his work because he’s afraid of somebody finding errors? Then he flubs math 101… hehe”

    Hmmmm… maybe we don’t want the data after all…… too….. painful….

  29. John F. Hultquist says:

    Kasuha says:
    January 17, 2012 at 11:52 am
    Is this blog still about science?

    Have you noticed the opening words at the top of every page?

    “Commentary on . . . ”

  30. hum says:

    At issue here is that PJ sent him the email to correct an error on the year and age, and then screws up his own. I know if I was going to point out the error, even nicely like he did, that I would not have a similar error in my reply. Too funny.

    “Tom, I presume you meant Jan 18, 2005 ! In 1965 you would have been 25 – your heydey.”

  31. David Jones says:

    These guys would be dangerous if allowed out with a checkbook!

  32. Peter S says:

    A far most revealing Jonesian Slip – I think – appears later on in this email. With retirement on his mind and after outlining the various machinations for getting more tax-payers money in hand, Phil states: “So busy times the nest few weeks getting the best deal”.

  33. Peter S says:

    we all make ‘em! :)

  34. TheJollyGreenMan says:

    We know that Professor Doctor Phil Jones mentions that he cannot use Excel to create a graph, and then calculate a trendline with the data.

    Yet, the MSM ignored this issue.

    Now, what is so important about this statement?

    We know that Ponzi was found out when he asked a close associate of his how to transfer some cash to his family in Italy. This alerted people to the fact that this clever financier can’t even transfer money to relatives; yet, his scheme was based on foreign exchange differences.

    Now I know that as a British subjects we accept the fact that our Prince Royal is challenged by the workings of a toothpaste tube, and that his butler is there to do it for him, yet we would expect that even Fred the Shred know how to use his own bank card and PIN number as head of a bank. In the same vein, what use is newspaper reporter that doesn’t know a simple task such as hacking a phone :)

    Ponzi was found out when his ignorance of basic foreign exchange transactions came to light. We would have expected that in a normal environment, the fact that Phil Jones was shown to be a ten-thumbed idiot, his credentials as a serious scientists would have been questioned.

  35. tib says:

    A simple slip is not worthy of a post and risks becoming a personal attack.
    Not really the way to go.

  36. Scott Covert says:

    Maybe we can cut him in half and count the rings.

  37. Alan Wilkinson says:

    tib et al, yes, unfortunately this post is a misjudgement, unworthy of the blog. Please file it under “Failed Humor”. There are plenty of reasons to ridicule Prof Jones but this is not one of them.

  38. WillR says:

    Well, the world is ready to spend trillions of dollars based in no small part on this man’s ability to do math and stats and to exercise his logical ability. Pointing out that the man has trouble with math and stats and arithmetic is probably fair game.

    He s apparently in good company as so many of the people of a climatological bent seem to have trouble with these matters.

    Question for Phil et al: You are known by the company you keep — so if you and your buddies can’t even perform simple arithmetical operations…how can you keep the world’s temperature records? It’s a fair question…

  39. DonaldS says:

    “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” – Willy Wonka (Roald Dahl)

  40. Justthinkin says:

    Alan Wilkinson,tib et al….the biggest mistake climate skeptics have been making is NOT taking the fight to the enemy. The AGW cultists kill us with every little error,the same should be reciprocated. And no. Doing so does NOT lower us to their level.That is just a saying for moral cowards. “Pleasing your enemies does not make them friends” (h/t SDA).

  41. R. Shearer says:

    Photoshop is much easier than Excel, even Al Gore says so, and he invented the internet.

  42. tom says:

    Here’s some hard fact expressed as math.
    The rank of 2011 in weather related insurance pay out: #1.
    The second place year, 2008
    regardless of the cause it is time for all you smart guys to get to work on ways to feed us
    cause things are going badly and fast

  43. Jim Barker says:

    There are 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.:-)

  44. feet2thefire says:

    The more you look at him, the more Phil Jones seems the perfect example of the Peter Principle – someone promoted to his level of incompetence. But this says nothing in favor his Wigley, his predecessor, either.

    Tom Nelson is finding some priceless email exchanges, isn’t he?

  45. Alan Wilkinson says:

    Justthinkin says: “The AGW cultists kill us with every little error,the same should be reciprocated.”

    No, they don’t. They merely expose themselves as propagandists and consequently they are losing the public debate. WUWT must not fall into the same traps.

  46. Martin A says:

    In 3254.txt, Phil Jones wrote:
    “Chris Vincent will be Dean from August, when Trevor takes on his new PVC post for
    research here at UEA ! Chris seems much more honest than Trevor – hopefully not famous
    last wrods.”

    Interesting to read a UEA professor’s opinion of Trevor Davies’s honesty.

  47. feet2thefire says:

    @tom 3:35 pm:

    Here’s some hard fact expressed as math.
    The rank of 2011 in weather related insurance pay out: #1.
    The second place year, 2008
    regardless of the cause it is time for all you smart guys to get to work on ways to feed us
    cause things are going badly and fast

    Speculation, speculation, speculation. Please, prove cause and effect – and in your own words, do it with math.

    tom, you say you are expressing something as math, then give us two bytes of statistics resultants. Please, show your work. In real math you have to show your work. You can’t just pop a number down and get credit for it.

    Can you tell me, mister mathematician, are these payouts adjusted for inflation? What stat method was used to compile the results? Did they consider if there were any facts that might assign some cause other than global warming?

    The old record for tornadoes in a day, week, moth and year was, for all I believe, 1974 (which was a helluva month, right when Hank Aaron was going after Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record), right in the middle of the 1940-1975 negative curve on the temperature reconstructions. Were you out there before this year, telling everybody that cool trends cause tornadoes to proliferate?

    With hurricanes since 2005 in a long lull and 2011 one of the “lulliest” years n record, what are we to think, about tornadoes being up and hurricanes down?

    Do you think it might be more complex than one statistics resultant? or is everything one-cause-equals-one-and-only-one-effect?

    Did you notice that Antarctic ice mass is growing and growing, even if the Arctic (which is much much less ice, overall) ice is not? Should we conclude that the South Pole ice is correlated with ONE year of really, really active tornadoes?

    A one-off correlation means – well, really… nothing. One offs? Even 6 decades of tree-rings correlation with temperatures between 1880 and 1940 (the Golden Age of tree-rings?) can’t make the a long-recognized non-correleation for the last 70 years go away. And even if the correlation comes back, those 70 years of non-correlation (known as the “Divergence Problem”) will have to be explained. According to the trees, we are in a cold spell.

    In complex systems like climate, everything is correlated with everything else. (That is what makes it a system.) Trying to point at ONE cherry-picked statistic and assigning it ONE cause out of the multitude – if you can pick out that one cause and be proven correct in the long haul, would you please pick my next Lotto numbers?

    BTW: The global warming>tornado connection has already been found to be a wrong speculation.

    Steve Garcia

  48. feet2thefire says:

    @hum 2:07 pm:
    “At issue here is that PJ sent him the email to correct an error on the year and age, and then screws up his own. I know if I was going to point out the error, even nicely like he did, that I would not have a similar error in my reply. Too funny.”

    There is a term for this kind of mistake. Under Muphry’s Law, Wikipedia opens with

    Not to be confused with Murphy’s law.

    Muphry’s law is an adage that states that “if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written“. The name is a deliberate misspelling of Murphy’s Law.

  49. Lew Skannen says:

    It is not being presented as science, just as a bit of fun at Phil Jones’ expense. I don’t see a problem.
    Now that fact that this genius cannot handle basic XL, well, that might be a bit more revealing.

  50. What if Jones was actually born in 1942, he just has a fake birth certificate?

  51. Aussie says:

    Phil Jones was born 2 years before me, and in 1970 I was 16!!

    However, we all make mistakes and I made a doozy last week regarding the date of my last son’s birth. I was out by about 20 years!! :)

  52. nevket240 says:

    It isn’t jst the standard of maths these clowns have problems with, it is Ethics they canot comprehend.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21355-carbon-dioxide-encourages-risky-behaviour-in-clownfish.html
    One can only think that our increaded CO2 levels have turned climate scientists into a school of clown fish..
    What did Einstein saty about insanity??
    regards

  53. Gary Hladik says:

    I think the post was worthwhile, if only for the additional humor in the comments: 3 types of people, 10 types of people, Muphry’s Law…hilarious!

    So far, though, the funniest one is by tom (January 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm). Good one, tom!

  54. Pamela Gray says:

    I have no idea how old I am. After 50 I stopped counting. Not for any reason. I LOVE birthdays. Mine especially. But it just doesn’t matter anymore how old I am. I can see me making this kind of mistake. Hell, I call my dogs my kids’ names and my kids my dogs’ names. I figure if I just say all of them, the correct name is in there somewhere.

  55. Mark T says:

    This is an incredibly petty post.

    Mark

    REPLY:
    One person’s petty is anothers funny. Thanks for showing you are humorless – Anthony

  56. Mark T says:

    Got nothing to do with humor – when trying to set yourself up as the best science blog you post this as a headline and come across just as petty and trite as those you heckle. There is a big difference between abject stupidity and obvious misstatements – not unlike your regular insistence that posters not hammer typos in each others posts (which I agree with).

    If you ever want the moral high ground, this ain’t the way… just sayin.

    Mark

  57. johanna says:

    What this exchange reveals is carelessness and lack of reality checking. As someone who is not a natural mathematician, I learned a long time ago to apply a reality test about orders of magnitude to any calculation I do, and to check and recheck before going into print (real or virtual).

    It seems that the UEA team are not only barely literate, they are not real strong on basic arithmetic either. Could someone remind me what skill set these climate gurus have that entitles them to direct the world’s economy?

  58. mondo says:

    I’d just like to take the opportunity to wish Tom Wigley a very happy birthday (18th Jan). Hope you’re having a great time Tom. You’ll be 72 today, if my calculations are correct.

  59. F. Ross says:


    Jim Barker says:
    January 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    There are 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.:-)

    Sounds right to me.

  60. F. Ross says:


    Jim Barker says:
    January 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    There are 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.:-)

    Re your post, I should have said 100 sure.

  61. Brian H says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    January 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    I have no idea how old I am. After 50 I stopped counting. Not for any reason. I LOVE birthdays. Mine especially. But it just doesn’t matter anymore how old I am. I can see me making this kind of mistake. Hell, I call my dogs my kids’ names and my kids my dogs’ names. I figure if I just say all of them, the correct name is in there somewhere.

    Reminds me of the woman who had about 5 boys, all named the same. When she called, and they came, she just pointed at the one she wanted.

  62. Brian H says:

    F. Ross says:
    January 17, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Jim Barker says:
    January 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    There are 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.:-)

    Re your post, I should have said 100 sure.

    Did you hear about the 10-faced climatologist? Eventually his complex deceptions 1000 his brain.

  63. F. Ross says:

    Brian H says:
    January 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm
    “…1000 his brain.”

    As the 11 stooges would say Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!

    I think we’ve reached a record low of inanity. Insanity(?)

  64. Brian H says:

    All I can say is, “101010 10 U!”

  65. Rhys Jaggar says:

    Look mate, Jackie Stewart couldn’t spell to save his life, but he’s a bloody successful businessman.

    He’s also dyslexic.

    Maybe Phil Jones is too, maybe he just had a bad day, maybe his typing let him down, I dunno.

    You know the most pathetic experience I ever had in business?

    An MD/CEO refusing to contribute one iota to a major tender document, then making out that the document was third rate because there were two or three missed commas in a 60+ page document. Such an anally retentive, OCD dork, eh?

    Focus on big things……….

  66. Garrett says:

    I’m trying to follow this website to see the other side of the debate, but these types of silly articles are wasting space on my RSS aggregator. Consider this as constructive criticism. Cheers.

  67. Jimmy Haigh. says:

    To err is humane…

  68. Just for laugh – this skit by Monty Python about the role of village idiots is funny, but listen to the bit at 2:50; village idiots do their degrees at non other than the University of East Anglia. I knew Python was good, but this is prophetic.
    http://m.youtube.com/index?desktop_uri=%2F&gl=NZ#/watch?v=jNBNqUdqm1E

  69. Brian H says: January 17, 2012 at 9:49 pm Reminds me of the woman who had about 5 boys, all named the same. When she called, and they came, she just pointed at the one she wanted.
    ……………….
    The usual ending to this story is that when she wanted to call one child in particular, she used the child’s surname.

  70. marchesarosa says:

    It must have been a slow news day for this to receive any sort of coverage here. This does not even qualify as “humour”. Stick to the high ground, please, Anthony.

  71. Alex Harvey says:

    While I condemn a lot of what is seen in the Climategate emails, seizing on a typo like this seems really, really silly. I reiterate what others have said above: for heaven’s sake delete this post.

  72. TheFlyingOrc says:

    This is still neither funny nor worthwhile, and will be used against you to show how petty you are later. Delete it.

  73. John S says:

    I have two things to say: The post does not, (no do i think it was intended to) imply Dr. Jones is simple minded. The post is funny and people ought to lighten up a bit. Let’s not pretend that we are above mocking someone for a stupid mistake when that someone is someone who badly needs to be taken down a peg.

  74. Blair says:

    Tom said….. “regardless of the cause it is time for all you smart guys to get to work on ways to feed us cause things are going badly and fast.”

    I can teach you to fish Tom, then you can feed yourself.

    As someone who’s done improv and stand up, I can tell you that this post is indeed funny and humorous because it displays the irony of the ‘Trust our math and give us more money’ crowd as being useless at math. Keep up the fine work Anthony. The trolls are pretending to be fellow deniers with their noses out of joint.

  75. Mike Jonas says:

    TheFlyingOrc – I agree that the post was unwise, but it would be wrong to delete it now. Like it or not, it happened.

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